Sexism And Race Issues In Kate Chopin's Desiree’s Baby
Kate Chopin expresses her views about sexism and elements of race issues in the story “Desiree’s Baby.” Chopin shows the relationship between women and men and the attitudes men have on women. She shows this by indicating women’s actions are solely driven by men. In her stories, she reveals men are dominant while women are vulnerable and gullible. And in terms of race the difference between being black and white shows the importance in the character’s lives. As Desiree and Armand associate themselves to be white, the plot will then reveal their black heritage and ultimately their lives are not worth living for. She also shows that women like Desiree in “Desiree’s Baby”, will defy expectations of their time period and undergo a transformation from being dependent to stronger, independent women. The plot for Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” centers around the themes of gender and race.
Chopin expresses her ideas of the differences between men and women in her short story through Desiree as sensitive and vulnerable, whereas Armand, her husband is presented to be oppressive and superior. Sexism during this time period had bound women from speaking up for themselves. In this story, prejudice was prevalent in that time period. This had affected Desiree because her origin was unknown. She is in a culture where marriage is seen as a top priority, women had to be submissive to their husbands. She was also said to be “Nameless” she had no account for herself, instead, she aimed to be a traditional wife by serving her husband Armand, and as such depends on him. When he is happy she also feels happy when he is upset she is “miserable enough to die.”
Eventually, Desiree gives birth to a colored baby. Armand neglects her and the baby because “that child is not white that means you are not white.” He blames Desiree of having mixed blood and the shame she has caused him. “he no longer loved her because of the conscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name” She does not have enough evidence to deny if she is indeed white because she is unfamiliar with her true background, even comparing her lighter skin to Armand’s. But Desiree being bounded by the constrictions of her being a woman is just accused instead. “unconscious injury she had brought upon Armands home.” (244) These words greatly affect Desiree when she is the one with whiter skin between her and Armand and seemed assured she is white, the inferiority of females of her time gives her no say in determining what her true skin color is. ‘Desiree is immersed in her husband ‘s value system and never stands up to Armand, not even to interpret the meaning of his dark skin'(235).
Sexism is an important theme throughout this short story, it shows the struggles of what women go through trying to fulfill their lives to the fullest potential. Desiree is described as “nameless” but for her to have importance in society is through her husband. Armand “who is of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana” (242). Men and husbands like Armand lead Desiree’s life in ways that would only benefit them the most. Due to Desiree’s situation, gave her no concept of herself aside from her husband, and after he shuns her, she is convinced her life is no longer worth living for. Desiree still being naive she asks him, “Do you want me to go?” she dies emotionally, Desiree has realized and understands that Armand is the reason she is worth something in society, as many other women of this time who were also ruled by the name of their husbands. This gives women no place to stand up for themselves and it relates to the struggles women face from being there best potential. When Desiree leaves she takes a path she is not familiar with which is along the deserted field.
This new path is symbolic. It shows the new path Desiree takes is the path towards progression, where she will leave behind her husband and will now search for equality for women. And like Maxine Kingston’s “No Name Woman’ The daughter’s mother told her about her aunt before she passed away and the causes in her death, she tells her a story about her aunt because her daughter got her menstrual cycle. She was saying about his family including the aunt and her new husband and how they traveled to America. One day the father saw his sister getting dressed and sees that her stomach looks like other pregnant women. He didn’t understand because her husband has been gone for years. Later that night the villagers had visited them and slaughtered their animals while sabotaging there home. The father went through the rest of his life not ever mentioning his sister, he did not want to be looked down upon.
Ultimately the mother was informing the daughter as a point as to why she should not commit adultery. Women in a Chinese society shared strikingly similar roles as those in American culture, they were to take orders from men without question. And in the title “No Name Woman” implies that women are less valued than men. Similarly as Desiree when she was called “Nameless”. Kingston tells the unfair discrimination against her aunt through her mother’s “talk stories.” Kingston’s mother shares the consequences her aunt went through in their traditional Chinese village and why she should never be like her aunt. The village required women to participate in rushed weddings to keep from adultery from the village. However in “No Name Woman,” it ironically falls victim into adultery which is why the villagers took action by Kingston’s aunt. First-generation Chinese-Americans cherish the stories they grew up hearing about however Kingston breaks away from her family’s issues by undermining the tradition and culture of her childhood village.
This story shows how one’s female identity will fade as soon as you are born into Chinese society. Both stories have different beliefs in their traditions. For example, in No Name Woman, the father believed that his sister was dishonorable to the family because she got married and had a child outside of wedlock. In Desiree’s Baby Armand abandoned his family due to the color of his baby skin. He only blamed and bashed his wife that she committed the sin of adultery which is highlighted in the two stories. Kingston fears she will disgrace her family for taking a stand. Breaking the cycle of silence her mother put onto Kingston has allowed her a new style of tradition which Kingston will pass onto the next future generation. Desiree and Kingston are both from two different cultures, however, it does not take away the same struggles they both face. Where women are disregarded. And lastly, Both Armand and Desiree are extremely different in character. Armand was restful for loving Desiree. He had monotonously led his life while Desiree ended hers. Desiree ultimately is weak she is so absorbed in traditional views that she was unable to cope without her husband’s love and acceptance which had lead her to kill herself. Armand is in disbelief when he finally discovers his own who “belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.” But having the pride that he does, he will internally suffer from the shock. In conclusion, the woman in both stories ultimately fulfills society’s expectation. Which leads them both to their deaths. Sexism prevails as an issue as Desiree struggles to stand up for herself because of the inferiority of women at this time. The elements sexism in ‘Desiree ‘s Baby’ create the plot and present the struggles and issues she is faced with.
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